A Clockwork Orange

Theater, Drama
1 out of 5 stars
A Clockwork Orange
Photograph: Courtesy Caitlin McNaney

Theater review by Helen Shaw

Well, my droogs, this is a load of yarbles. Right now at New World Stages, a risible British adaptation of A Clockwork Orange is doing a bit of the old ultraviolence to its audience. Put synth-rock Beethoven on the P.A., get some fit young men to do choreography that involves whipping off their tops, and you will probably please some people. But for those who do not hanker for Chippendales studs doing dance-rapes—quick, can we have a moratorium on dance-rapes?—this Orange is rancid and confused, another sad example of an adaptation missing the point of its source material.

Have you recently read Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel about wicked Alex (Jonno Davies) and the State’s attempt to brainwash him, or perhaps seen Stanley Kubrick’s 1972 film? I ask because there’s no other way to know what’s happening. Director Alexandra Spencer-Jones’s cast is all male—maybe she’s leery of what assaulting women looks like—and the resulting confusions obscure important plot events. I also ask because Orange tends to slip away from the person supposedly in control of it. Burgess wrote a linguistic experiment and was shocked when people responded to its barbarity; Kubrick pulled his film from circulation in the U.K. after copycat attacks. The taste level is so low in this version that I don’t want to equate Spencer-Jones to those two master stylists, but she, too, has trouble putting her tone across. Her attempt at a super-dark, sexy-wexy production is about as frightening as an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, with a similar quantity of hard posing. Yet she’s kept in the detail about penetrating a victim with a broken glass bottle! Look away, or risk being turned off of theater forever.

New World Stages (Off Broadway). By Anthony Burgess. Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones. With Jonno Davies. Running time: 1hr 35mins. No intermission.

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By: Helen Shaw

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